Thankful for patients like Lizzie Mae Gray, 100

November 25th, 2013

DH2 Janette Garcia and Dr. Bill Wathen celebrate with longtime patient Lizzie Mae Gray.

She’s been advancing students’ clinical education since 1932.

Centenarian Lizzie Mae Gray knows how to appreciate a great party. The spry Dallas resident was able to relish not just one but four gatherings in September celebrating her 100th birthday.

Texas A&M Baylor College of Dentistry recognizes Gray for a singular milestone; she has been associated with the dental school longer than anyone else who graces its doors. After 81 years as a patient, she holds a position of honor as a loyal partner in the education of decades’ worth of dental and dental hygiene students.

Visits to TAMBCD have been part of Gray’s routine since 1932, when she first came to the college along with her parents and three brothers. Her dental visits continued through the years, including during her employment as a licensed vocational nurse at Parkland Memorial Hospital from 1953 to 1970.

Gray was honored during the dental school’s centennial in 2005 and still receives routine care from students of TAMBCD’s Caruth School of Dental Hygiene. She has also referred friends and family to become patients. Her tenacity in keeping her teeth clean is evidenced by exceptional oral health.

“I’ve had all my care done here,” she says. “I wouldn’t go anywhere else. I’m very satisfied.

“I think the students are very good, and I knew I needed to keep coming back.”

For her birthday celebration at Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, church staff collected proclamations, including one from Dr. Lawrence Wolinsky, dental school dean. Among flowery mentions of intriguing milestones and hearty congratulations, the proclamation noted that dental cleanings at the school cost 25 cents back when Gray was a teenager.

“Back then you had to go in and register in the morning, then leave and come back the same day for your cleaning,” she says.

Gray, who lives with her niece, is active in her church and the senior citizens group at Park South Family YMCA in Dallas, where she attends potluck lunches, swims and plays dominoes and bingo. She even goes away to camp with a friend most years at Camp Hoblitzelle in Midlothian, Texas, a classic camp experience complete with good food and bring-your-own bedding.

“The camp is very nice,” says Gray. “I received my invite but didn’t go this year.”

Her major birthday celebration was reason enough to stay home.

— Carolyn Cox